What Qualities To Look For in CFO Consultant

Is your San Diego small business growing in revenue and employees?  Is your startup outgrowing your existing accounting staff and need more experienced strategic planning, financial management, fundraising, admin, legal oversight or accounting leadership to reach the next level of success and profitability targets?  Perhaps you need help aligning your business strategy, improving operations, and driving both top and bottom-line financial performance?  If you need someone to help strategically grow your business, someone who understands finance issues and financial strategy, then it may be time to consider contracting a part-time or outsourced CFO consultant.  

Here are a few deliverables that an outsourced CFO can provide for your company: ask yourself if you could benefit from having the following:

  • Accurate and detailed financial reports delivered to your management team, along with easy to understand interpretations and analysis of your company’s financial results  
  • Cash flow forecasting and analysis, budget reporting and analysis  
  • Gives you more time to focus on new services, new customers and other core business issues.
  • Get a better understanding of the financial side of your business. So you have less surprises and more control over the money.
  • Setting up internal controls and infrastructure
  • Oversight of your accounting functions to make sure your books are accurate and reportable   
  • Converting to accrual based accounting    
  • Have a profitability analysis by service or product line of your business
  • Identifying, managing and optimizing your company’s key cost and profit drivers
  • Providing strategic planning and decision guidance to your executive management and CEO
  • Period, end closing

Then, your next step is figuring out what to look for in a CFO consulting firm or consultant.  Here is a list of seven (7) criteria or qualifications that you should look for in an experienced interim chief financial officer.  

part-time-cfo-qualities

1) Leadership Skills

Even if you are not bringing your interim CFO in for a permanent CFO position, you may have a large financial, operational or accounting, project looming for which you are looking for financial leadership to move things forward.  You should be looking for someone who has the ability to on-board and quickly define project objectives, requirements and deliverables while assisting to lead your company toward specific goals without causing much tension or confusion. These qualities should also include emotional intelligence; self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

2) Knowledge and Passion for Your Company’s Industry

An experienced on-demand CFO is not just an expert in finance, but also has prior experience and a stellar track record for managing finances in your company’s industry or business sector.  If this person is cultural fit, and cares about company’s stakeholders, then there is a much greater chance that this individual will make a difference.  Possessing the ability to anticipate financial management issues and address them is an essential character trait in creating wealth for the company.

3) Professional Communication Skills

Teamwork is an essential part of a position in a team or department, but it is especially crucial for C-suite level positions like a CFO.  Any person you bring on as part time CFO needs to have excellent communication skills– both in person and in writing- with everyone on your staff.

4) Reliability

Again an accomplished chief finance executive needs to have far more knowledge than just that pertained to accounting.  As one of your company’s most strategic outside financial advisors, you will have to rely on your interim CFO in a number of ways.  When things get difficult, you need to know you can trust that your interim CFO will be there to weather the storm and make the right decisions to help move your business forward.

5) Problem Solving Skills

Even if your small business or startup is achieving positive sales growth, there will always be a financial issue that will come up and need to be solved.  Maybe you need a better financial model or maybe you need to restructure debt?  When searching for a CFO consultant, testing a person’s problem solving skills with thoughtful interview questions is a good way to see how the candidate has helped solve other companies’ problems, or how this person would handle everyday issues.

6) Has a Range of Financial Knowledge Expertise

It is beyond expected that an experienced outsourced CFO will understand the basics of finance.  You will want that this individual to have expertise in other key areas such as investment, full cycle accounting, risk management, strategic planning, budgeting, cash management, financial reporting/analysis and business modeling; such a knowledge base is an invaluable resource to your organization.  

7) Cultural Fit

If the consulting CFO doesn’t get along with your management team, it will hard for he or she to help your company improve.  Since trust and shared values usually lead to more successful partnerships and decision making, it also helps to look for accounting and CFO consultants that understand your business, industry and culture.  Your interim CFO should have the mentality whereby the importance of building relationships is recognized and that supporting all levels and departments within the organization is essential.   Either way it’s important to make sure mutual expectations of the role are clear as there’s nothing worse than wasting a highly skilled professional’s time and expertise, or a company’s money, if you are not going to consider or take their given strategic advice.

Conclusion

The hiring of an interim or outsourced CFO highly depends on what your company is looking for…do you already have a small business controller, how solid is your business’ accounting function?  Interim or part-time CFO consultants’ work scope can range from setting up and running the entire administrative function to IT assessment, accounting department oversight, business planning, strategic planning, fundraising, profit driver identification and more.  As an added bonus, the most experienced CFO consultant’s hourly fees usually more than pay for themselves through increased profits and reduced costs.

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